It's not just a race, it's a passion. The Palio is the most important event in Siena, taking place on July 2 and August 16 every year.
The Palio is a pretty complex event that has gained additional rules through the centuries, as well as traditions and customs, many which only members of the contrada are aware of.
The Palio horse race takes place twice a year, one the 2nd of July (Palio of Provenzano, in honor of the Madonna of Provenzano) and on August 16th (Palio of the Assumption, in honor of the Virgin Mary's Assumption). During this special occasion, the main square in Siena, the Piazza del Campo, is prepared for the race as the ring around the square is covered with tuff clay. Ten out of the seventeen contrade take part in each race: seven are those that did not participate in the previous race on that day, while the other three are drawn by lots. The Palio actually takes place over 4 days, the race taking place on the fourth day. The first day is for the "Tratta", or the drawing of the lots and assignment of the horses to each of the Contrade. Therefore, each of the of the Contrade picks their jockey but not the horse, they are drawn and only known at this time!
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